Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs Wins First Post-Bolt Olympic 100m Gold

 

Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs outshone a field of unusual suspects to claim a shock Olympic gold in the men’s 100 metres on Sunday, breaking retired Jamaican star Usain Bolt’s 13-year hold on the blue riband event.

Jacobs, 26, timed a European record of 9.80 seconds, with American Fred Kerley taking silver in 9.84sec in one of the most understated major championship 100m races of recent times.

Canada’s Andre de Grasse, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, repeated the feat in 9.89sec.

The athletes were introduced in a dramatic light show — the stadium floodlights were shut off and 12 projectors cast 3D images of the world, zooming in to the Tokyo skyline, and then the name of each sprinter.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Enoch Adegoke Storms Into 100m Final At #Tokyo2020

The lights came back on, swiftly followed by a horrendous false start for Zharnel Hughes in lane four, the Anguilla-born Briton not even bothering to question his disqualification.

Dressed in light blue singlet and lycra shorts, the US-born Jacobs, in lane three, made a good start, held his nerve through the drive phase, and powered through to the line.

Jacobs joyously ran into the arms of Italian teammate Gianmarco Tamberi, who had just shared gold in the men’s high jump and was waiting at the finish line.

The race, run in stifling temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit), had a distinctly underwhelming build-up and feel to it as hot favourite Trayvon Bromell bombed out of the semi-finals in which China’s Su Bingtian and Jacobs unexpectedly set Asian and European records respectively.

The Tokyo Olympics are the first since Athens in 2004 to take place without Bolt, who went on to win three consecutive Olympic 100m titles in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, as well as three straight 200m crowns.

And for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games, there was no Jamaican in the final, Bolt’s long-time former teammate Yohan Blake failing to qualify from his semi-final.

The field was instead filled with a raft of relatively unknown sprinters, with Jacobs’ main claim to fame a European 60m indoor title earlier this year.

The 100m in Tokyo, and the circus around it, has arguably been a pale imitation of Bolt’s glory years during which the charismatic Jamaican not only dominated the sprints but also captivated a truly global audience.

While the spectacle that Bolt brought to the blue riband event has been missing since his retirement in 2017, so also has been the emergence of a new generation of sprinting hopes.

Many have been lauded as the athlete to fill Bolt’s spikes, but no one has yet lived up to the considerable weight of expectation.

Added to that, the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Tokyo had no cheering fans because of coronavirus restrictions in the Japanese capital.

Instead, there were sparse pockets of athletes and team officials who did their best to create something of an atmosphere at what is normally one of the most widely anticipated events of the entire Games, commanding a huge worldwide television audience.

AFP

‘This One Sucks’ – Tennis Star Osaka Suffers Home Olympic Shock

Japan’s Naomi Osaka leaves the court after being beaten by Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

 

 

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka’s dreams of home Olympic gold were crushed by a 6-1, 6-4 defeat to Marketa Vondrousova Tuesday as her return to action came to an abrupt end.

Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron and was one of the faces of the Games, struggled in an error-strewn display that blew the draw wide open after the earlier exits of world number one Ashleigh Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka.

“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said the four-time Grand Slam-winner.

Asked what went wrong, she replied: “Everything — if you watch the match then you would probably see. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I counted on that I couldn’t rely on today.”

The third-round defeat follows a turbulent few months for Osaka, who abandoned her French Open campaign in May after refusing to attend press conferences, citing the need to preserve her mental health.

 

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova leaves the court after beating Japan’s Naomi Osaka in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Osaka also skipped Wimbledon, saying she had been battling depression and anxiety, before returning in Tokyo for her first Olympics including her starring role at the opening ceremony.

“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year (it) was a bit much,” said Osaka.

After looking assured in the first two rounds after her eight-week hiatus, Osaka made a dreadful start under the centre court roof at a rain-hit Ariake Tennis Park and never recovered.

“I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well. I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher,” she said.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

 

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka competes against Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

– Slow start spells the end –
Osaka dropped serve in the opening game and was broken twice more as the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova raced away with the first set.

The second seed broke in the second set but relinquished the early advantage with a double fault that allowed Vondrousova to level at two games apiece.

The 23-year-old grappled with inconsistency, and even when given a sniff of regaining the initiative she had no response to Vondrousova’s array of crafty drop shots.

Osaka saved two match points as she served to stay alive at 4-5 but Vondrousova converted at the third time of asking as the Japanese superstar smacked a backhand wide.

Vondrousova will go on to face Spain’s Paula Badosa or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the quarter-finals.

“Of course it’s one of the biggest wins of my career,” said Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open runner-up.

“Naomi is a great player, she has so many Grand Slams, so I knew it would be a tough match. I’m very happy with my play.

“I played amazingly in the first set, and then the second set was really tough. I’m just happy to be through.”

Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina is the highest-ranked women’s player remaining in Tokyo.

 

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova (L) shakes hands with Japan’s Naomi Osaka after winning their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Earlier Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the men’s third round as he avenged last month’s Wimbledon loss to Frances Tiafoe.

The Greek third seed downed American Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4 in the opening match of the day as all play on outside courts was delayed an hour by morning drizzle.

Tsitsipas, who is also entered in mixed doubles with Maria Sakkari, will play France’s Ugo Humbert or Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Having lost to Tiafoe in the opening round at Wimbledon, Tsitsipas ensured there was no repeat as a single break in each set enabled him to wrap up victory in 77 minutes.

Japan’s Nishiya, 13, Becomes One Of Youngest Gold Medal Winners In Olympic History 

Japan’s Momiji Nishiya celebrates after performing a trick during the skateboarding women’s street final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Sports Park in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. PHOTO: Jeff PACHOUD / AFP

 

Japan’s Momiji Nishiya became one of the youngest individual Olympic champions in history when she won the inaugural women’s skateboarding gold at the age of 13 years and 330 days on Monday.

Nishiya finished ahead of Brazil’s Rayssa Leal — who at 13 years and 203 days could have become the youngest ever individual Olympic champion — and Japan’s Funa Nakayama, 16.

Nishiya starred in the tricks section to score 15.26 and give the hosts a clean sweep of the street discipline as skateboarding makes its Olympic debut.

Her performance mirrored that of Japan teammate Yuto Horigome, who won the men’s title with a stunning sequence of tricks on Sunday.

Japan’s Momiji Nishiya poses with her gold medal during the podium ceremony of the skateboarding women’s street final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Sports Park in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. PHOTO: Jeff PACHOUD / AFP

 

“I’m so glad to become the youngest (Japanese gold medallist) at my first Olympics… tears came to my eyes,” Nishiya told reporters after receiving her medal.

Skaters each have two 45-second runs on the equipment and five shots at a one-off trick. Their best four scores out of the seven make up their final total.

“I was nervous on the first run but I was not nervous later,” Nishiya said, adding that she wants to claim a second gold at the Paris Olympics in 2024.

But first, to celebrate her victory, she will “go and eat at a beef barbeque restaurant”.

Skateboarding is one of four sports making their debut in Tokyo, along with surfing, sport climbing and karate as part of an attempt to bring the Olympics to younger audiences.

US diver Marjorie Gestring remains the youngest individual Olympic champion after winning the 3m springboard at the 1936 Berlin Games at 13 years and 268 days.

Philippine finalist Margielyn Didal, 22, missed out on a medal but said competing in Tokyo was a “really, really big achievement” for her.

Having started skateboarding a decade ago in the streets of Cebu city, Didal burst onto the scene in 2018 with an Asian Games gold.

Didal said she would call her parents, a carpenter and a street vendor, to hear their reaction.

“I know that they’re proud of me,” she told reporters.

AFP

Osaka In Olympic Spotlight, But Biracial Japanese Face Struggles

Japan’s Naomi Osaka looks on at Ariake Tennis Park ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

 

Emili Omuro was thrilled by Naomi Osaka’s star turn at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, but the biracial teenager says Japan must do more to accept people of mixed heritage.

Four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father Haitian, climbed a replica Mount Fuji on Friday to light the cauldron in the ceremony’s crowning moment.

And she wasn’t the only athlete of dual heritage representing the host.

Japanese-Beninese NBA basketball star Rui Hachimura was one of the flagbearers leading Japan’s team into the Olympic Stadium.

Osaka and Hachimura are adored in Japan, and boast lucrative sponsorship and advertising deals.

But many young people of black and Japanese heritage still struggle in an often conservative and largely homogenous society.

“There were many times when it was hard,” 14-year-old Omuro, born to a Japanese mother and a black American father, told AFP of her childhood in a town north of Tokyo.

“People would whisper behind my back and make fun of me at extra-curricular clubs, or when I was walking down the street.”

Looking to draw attention to the bullying and discrimination faced by some biracial Japanese, Omuro applied and was chosen to be a torchbearer in the nationwide Olympic flame relay before the Games.

She also hoped to highlight the country’s increasing but often overlooked racial diversity.

“Some people say, ‘for mixed people, bullying is inevitable.’ And other people don’t know there is discrimination, or pretend not to see it,” she said.

 

Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka holds the Olympic Torch before lighting the flame of hope in the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by HANNAH MCKAY / POOL / AFP)

 

An overview shows Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka standing after lighting the flame of hope in the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Antonin THUILLIER / AFP)

 

– ‘Ignorance, not hate’ –
When coronavirus measures began to force sections of the relay off public roads, Omuro reconsidered taking part, worried about the pandemic.

But she ultimately decided her participation would be important.

“We need to create a society where people can feel at ease, even if they are different.”

Kinota Braithwaite is painfully aware of how discrimination can affect Japanese biracial children.

The black Canadian’s daughter Mio, whose mother is Japanese, suffered racist taunts in second grade in Tokyo.

“This happened to me when I was a kid growing up in Canada, and I thought that the world was a place where this wouldn’t happen any more,” he told AFP.

“So it really broke my heart.”

This year, he published a children’s book called “Mio The Beautiful” about his daughter’s experience.

And he gives talks in schools to raise awareness of an issue that he says Japanese teachers are often not equipped to handle.

Braithwaite, a teacher himself, sees discrimination in Japan as largely driven by “ignorance, not hate”.

Athletes like Osaka and Hachimura give his two children “role models”, he said.

And the pair are huge fans — “My son has a Rui Hachimura water bottle, he has his hair cut like Rui, he plays basketball,” he laughed.

“For Japanese people, it sort of opens their eyes too, which is a good thing.”

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka uses a camera at Ariake Tennis Park ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

– Representation ‘does matter’ –
Japan remains a largely homogenous society.

An analysis of government data by Kyodo News agency found just 20,000 of 1.02 million babies born in 2014 had Japanese and non-Japanese parents.

And only recently has the image of mixed Japanese started to include those with black heritage, said Sayaka Osanami Torngren, associate professor of international migration and ethnic relations at Malmo University in Sweden.

“Historically, mixed persons have always existed (in Japan), but the image of mixed persons has always been white or Caucasian and Japanese,” said Torngren.

Now, more people of black and Japanese or mixed Asian heritage are “raising their voices and addressing their experiences of discrimination or racism”.

Even stars like Washington Wizards power forward Hachimura and Osaka are not immune to racist language and tone-deaf depictions.

In 2019, Osaka’s sponsor Nissin Foods was accused of “whitewashing” over an animated advert depicting the 23-year-old with light skin, and a Japanese comedy duo apologised after joking she was “too sunburned” and needed “bleach”.

Hachimura meanwhile revealed this year that he receives racist messages “almost every day”.

“There are people who say there is no racism in Japan,” wrote his brother Aren Hachimura, posting a hateful message he received online.

“But I want people to pay attention to the issue of racism.”

So seeing Hachimura and Osaka represent Japan on the global stage is important, said Torngren.

“Even though it might be token, it does matter.”

 

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 20, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka attends a training session at the Ariake Tennis Park ahead of the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. – Defending champion Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open due to mental issues and skipped Wimbledon, and Roger Federer, who missed the Olympics with a knee injury, were named July 21, 2021 to the US Open tennis field. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Olympic Athletes Infected As Covid Travel Woe Hits Europe

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Two athletes became the first to test positive for the coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials said Sunday, as new border rules in Europe caused last-minute travel frustration.

Less than a week before the Olympics is due to begin, the cases will heighten concerns over the event.

Organisers have described the Games as the world’s “most restrictive sports event”, but it faces opposition in Japan over fears it will bring new infections to a country already battling a surge.

A daily tally of new cases revealed two athletes tested positive in the Village and one elsewhere. They come a day after an unidentified person, who was not a competitor, became the first case in the village.

Britain is also facing a backlash over its decision to exclude France from its new looser entry policies — vaccinated returning UK residents will still have to quarantine for 10 days, unlike in other “amber” countries.

“I’m a doctor so I understand the health issues very well, but this doesn’t make any sense,” said Maud Lemoine, a London-based doctor who is visiting France.

And France’s government drew ire after announcing that unvaccinated visitors from Britain and several other European countries must show a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of departure rather than 48 or 72 hours, as was the case previously.

The interior ministry said almost 114,000 demonstrators gathered across France on Saturday to protest against the government’s handling of the pandemic and continued restrictions on everyday life.

“It’s not that we think the Earth is flat, but we don’t know the long-term effects of these vaccines cobbled together in a hurry,” care assistant Rita, 39, said at a march in the city of Montpellier.

Elsewhere in Europe, Greek officials imposed curfews on the party island of Mykonos and Spanish authorities did likewise in Barcelona and other cities in the northeastern Catalonia region.

EU jabs overtake US

European governments are facing an uphill battle, with the EU’s disease prevention agency warning that infections could rise fivefold across the bloc by August 1.

But the continent also had something to celebrate, with the proportion of people vaccinated topping the US figure for the first time.

Around 55.5 percent have now had a first dose following a sluggish start, compared with 55.4 across the Atlantic.

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said the achievement validated the EU’s strategy of “remaining open and exporting half of our production to 100+ countries”, vaunting the bloc’s “solidarity” compared with other vaccine makers.

And in Britain, where most of the adult population has now had two jabs, the government is preparing to ease most restrictions.

Quarantine for vaccinated Britons returning from “amber” list countries is due to end on Monday but at the last minute the government decided to retain the status quo for France because of the “persistent presence” of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.

While the rule applies only to England for now, devolved governments in Scotland and Wales indicated they were likely to follow suit.

The new looser regime in England, with mask requirements among the rules to be dropped, comes as the UK recorded more than 50,000 cases in a day on Friday and the government said that rate could double in the coming weeks.

However, officials said the high vaccination rate should prevent a spike in deaths and serious illness.

Hajj joy

Among those testing positive was Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced on Saturday he had contracted the disease and was isolating.

“I’m grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine. And so far, my symptoms are very mild,” Javid said via Twitter.

With cases surging, critics say the reopening is a reckless gamble.

“This is a threat not just to England but to the whole world — particularly low- and middle-income countries who have very limited access to vaccines,” a group of international scientists said in a joint statement on Friday.

One poorer country experiencing an infection surge is Senegal, whose national bus operator announced Saturday it would suspend intercity transport.

The announcement comes after the country of 16 million logged a record — 1,366 — of new coronavirus cases on Saturday, almost double the daily record of 733 set on Wednesday.

A new single-day record was also set in Thailand, which had more than 11,300 new infections Sunday, bringing the kingdom’s cumulative cases to more than 400,000. Saturday also saw the single-day death toll reach 141 — a new high.

Three more provinces will be placed under severe restrictions — including a night-time curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than five — that already cover Bangkok and the southern provinces.

Saudi Arabia is allowing crowds to gather for the second downsized hajj since the start of the pandemic.

The kingdom is allowing only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents to take part — a fraction of the pre-pandemic number — as it seeks to repeat last year’s success that saw no virus outbreak during the five-day ritual.

Among the chosen ones this year was Ameen, a 58-year-old Indian oil contractor who was picked for the ritual along with his wife and three adult children.

“We are overjoyed,” said Ameen. “So many of our friends and relatives were rejected.”

French Father Goes On Hunger Strike For Kids ‘Abducted’ By Japanese Wife

For the children allegedly kidnapped by his Japanese wife, a French father goes on hunger strike.

 

 

A Frenchman in Japan who says his children were abducted by their Japanese mother began a hunger strike in Tokyo Saturday, in a protest he hopes will bring international attention to his fight to be reunited with his family. 

“I’ve given everything, I’ve lost my job, my house and my savings in the last three years. I weigh 80 kilograms now, and I’ll give it all until the very last gram,” Vincent Fichot told AFP, sitting at the entrance to a train station in Tokyo, not far from the new Olympic stadium.

Fichot, 39, who has lived in Japan for 15 years, said he will not give up his hunger strike until his children, a boy and a girl aged six and four, are returned to him.

Failing that, he said, “I want the French authorities to show me they are serious and that they really want to defend my kids, and that they will impose sanctions against Japan until Japan agrees to protect my children’s rights.”

His wife has accused him in court of domestic violence, Fichot said, but later “retracted” the claim, and the Japanese justice system now has “nothing to reproach me for”, he said.

“I’ve tried everything, I’ve tried to convince my wife by saying to her that it was not good for the kids,” he added. “Right now I don’t even know if they are alive.”

Joint custody of children in cases of divorce or separation does not exist legally in Japan, where parental abductions are common and often tolerated by local authorities.

No official numbers exist, but rights groups have estimated that about 150,000 minors are forcibly separated from a parent every year in the East Asian archipelago.

Among those are some bi-national children, like those of Fichot, who, having hit a brick wall with Japanese authorities, has now turned to the French state and international bodies.

He plans to continue his hunger strike day and night — and says if police chase him away he will go elsewhere.

Members of a Tokyo-based support committee, which includes other foreign parents in the same situation, will bring him water, clothes, and help him charge his electronic devices.

Fichot also plans to post a short daily video on his Facebook page to publicise his situation and keep followers up to date on his physical condition.

French President Emmanuel Macron will arrive in Tokyo at the end of the month to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

During his last visit to the country, Macron spoke out in support of French parents separated from their children in Japan, condemning “situations of distress that are completely unacceptable”.

Japan To Impose COVID-19 Emergency In Tokyo During Olympics

A woman stands in front of the Olympic Rings at dusk in Yokohama on July 2, 2021. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

 

The Japanese government plans to impose a virus state of emergency in Tokyo during the Olympics, reports said Wednesday, meaning spectators could be barred from venues.

The emergency measures — less strict than a blanket lockdown — will be in force until August 22, several Japanese media outlets reported, following a rise in cases less than three weeks before the Games begin.

“The government decided to declare the fourth state of emergency for Tokyo and communicated the decision to the ruling parties,” public broadcaster NHK said.

Kyodo News, citing a senior government official, said it was now likely the Olympics would be held behind closed doors.

The pandemic-postponed 2020 Games will take place under strict anti-infection rules, with overseas fans already banned.

Organisers set a limit last month of 10,000 fans, or half of each venue’s capacity, but recently warned that a fully closed-door Games remained an option as the virus situation worsens.

Japan’s Covid-19 outbreak has not been as severe as in some countries, with around 14,800 deaths, but experts say another wave could stretch medical services as the Games begin.

Participants have already begun arriving in Japan, with 11,000 Olympic athletes from around 200 countries set to take part.

AFP

Survivor Window Closing In Japan Landslide, 24 Unaccounted For

Japan Self-Defense Force personnel search for missing people at the scene of a landslide following days of heavy rain in Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture on July 5, 2021. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

 

 

More than 1,000 soldiers and rescue workers joined an increasingly desperate search Tuesday for survivors in a Japanese resort town devastated by a landslide three days ago.

Four people have been confirmed dead after the disaster in Atami in central Japan and officials said they were still unable to clarify the fate or whereabouts of 24 other residents.

Helicopter images showed a bleak line of sludge and rubble snaking down a hillside district of Atami, a popular hot-spring destination.

 

Police search for missing people buried under mud at the scene of a landslide following days of heavy rain in Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture on July 5, 2021. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

 

Rescuers trawled through destroyed homes and waded across vast piles of mud at the very end of the 72 hours that experts say are crucial in the race to save lives.

“There is only so much time left… We will give all we have during the time we have left and pray that we will be able to find as many people as possible,” Atami Mayor Sakae Saito told a meeting of local officials on Tuesday morning.

At one point the number of residents unaccounted for stood at more than 100, but officials said they had managed to track most of them down and confirm they were safe.

 

Police officers search for missing people at the scene of a landslide following days of heavy rain in the Izusan area of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture on July 6, 2021. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT

 

“Those who remain unaccounted for stands at 24 individuals,” Saito said at the televised meeting.

Confirming the number of people missing after the disaster has been complicated — many families have summer homes in Atami but actually live elsewhere, while elderly residents may have moved to care homes, local media said.

The landslide descended in several violent waves on Saturday morning during Japan’s annual rainy season.

It followed days of intense downpours in and around Atami, which is around 90 kilometres (55 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

 

Police officers search for missing people at the scene of a landslide following days of heavy rain in the Izusan area of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture on July 6, 2021. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT

 

Pylons were toppled, vehicles buried and buildings tipped from their foundations in the disaster, which wrecked 130 homes and other buildings.

City officials said Monday they had identified one of the dead as 82-year-old Chiyose Suzuki.

Her eldest son Hitoshi, 56, told Kyodo that he regretted not bringing his mother — who could not walk well — with him when police told them to evacuate.

“I should have gone back and taken her out of there myself” instead of leaving her behind, he was quoted as saying.

Suzuki was taken to hospital by rescuers but died there.

Atami reportedly recorded more rainfall in 48 hours than it usually does for the whole of July, and survivors told local media they had never experienced such strong rain in their lives.

 

Policemen search for missing people at the scene of a landslide following days of heavy rain in Atami, in Shizuoka Prefecture on July 5, 2021. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT

 

Scientists say climate change is intensifying Japan’s rainy season because a warmer atmosphere holds more water.

In 2018, more than 200 people died as devastating floods inundated western Japan, and last year dozens were killed as the coronavirus pandemic complicated relief efforts.

Two Bodies Found After Japan Landslide Sweeps Away Homes

 

 

Two bodies were found after a huge landslide at a resort town in central Japan swept away homes on Saturday following days of heavy rain, with around 20 people still missing, officials said.

Television footage showed a torrent of mud obliterating buildings as it crashed down a hillside in Atami, southwest of Tokyo, sending people fleeing as it buried part of a road.

“I heard a horrible sound and saw a mudslide flowing downwards as rescue workers were urging people to evacuate. So I ran to higher ground,” the head of a temple near the disaster told public broadcaster NHK.

“When I returned, houses and cars that were in front of the temple were gone.”

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said emergency services and the military had launched rescue and evacuation missions, warning that more downpours were forecast.

“There is a possibility of heavy rain due to the rain front, so we still need to be alert at the maximum level,” he said at an emergency disaster meeting.

Atami saw rainfall of 313 millimetres in just 48 hours to Saturday — higher than the average monthly total for July of 242.5 millimetres, according to NHK.

Two people were “found in a state of cardio and respiratory arrest”, the regional governor said, an expression often used in Japan before confirming death.

“Because of the heavy rain, the ground loosened and the mudslide occurred… it picked up speed and swept away houses together with people,” Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu told reporters.

He said “around 20” people were still missing after being swept away by the landslide.

– Rainy season –
The disaster began at around 10:30 am at a river near the city, which is around 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Tokyo and is famous as a hot spring resort.

A video posted on TikTok from the scene showed a huge slurry of mud and debris sliding slowly down a steep road and nearly engulfing a white car, which drove away before a faster and more violent torrent arrived.

In other clips on social media, the landslide was seen toppling electricity poles, with large areas left inundated by several waves of earth.

Much of Japan is currently in its annual rainy season, which lasts several weeks and often causes floods and landslides, prompting local authorities to issue evacuation orders.

Scientists say climate change is intensifying the phenomenon because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, resulting in more intense rainfall.

More than 200 people died as devastating floods inundated western Japan in 2018.

The highest evacuation alert, which urges people “to secure safety urgently”, has been issued to Atami city which has more than 20,000 households, according to NHK.

Residents in many other cities in Shizuoka have also been ordered to evacuate.

Around 2,800 homes in Atami have been left without power, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Shinkansen bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka were temporarily stopped due to the heavy rain, while other local trains in rain-affected areas were also halted, rail company websites said.

Japan Olympic Chief Says ‘No Way’ To Ensure Zero Virus Cases

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Japan’s Olympic chief said Monday there was “no way” to ensure zero virus cases among teams arriving for the Tokyo Games, as officials prepare to tighten screening procedures.

Japanese Olympic Committee president Yasuhiro Yamashita said “thorough measures” would be necessary at airports, after two members of Uganda’s team tested positive last week following their arrival in Japan.

“No matter what measures are put in place, there is no way we will have zero positive cases arriving,” Yamashita told reporters.

“Even if you’ve had two vaccine doses, it doesn’t guarantee every individual will be negative.”

On Sunday, a Games official had said teams should be immediately isolated if they arrive in Japan with an infected team member.

“In order to make sure no clusters arise, we need to have thorough measures at the border at the time of entry to Japan,” Yamashita said, adding that daily virus testing would also help reduce the risk of infections spreading.

But he hoped athletes would have “positive memories” of the Games, despite “severe restrictions” that mean they can’t even leave the Olympic Village to buy souvenirs.

Yamashita, a former Olympic judo gold-medallist, said he sympathised with the athletes, who will be confined to the Village when they are not training or competing.

“How can international athletes have some time to relax and create some positive memories?”

“Of course, the top priority is to make it safe and secure, but I think we need to make an effort to give athletes that kind of space,” Yamashita said.

Several high-profile athletes have already said they will not compete in Tokyo, with tennis star Serena Williams the latest to drop out on Sunday.

Williams did not give a reason for her withdrawal, but a ban on family members at the Olympics would have separated her from her daughter.

Athletes must sign a written pledge promising to abide by antivirus rules in Tokyo, including staying away from tourist areas, shops and bars, limiting contact with other people, and not using public transport.

Yamashita, who won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics but missed the 1980 Moscow Games because Japan boycotted the event, said athletes would find it “difficult” to spend so long cooped up inside.

“I think the athletes will be spending their time here in Japan in extremely restricted conditions,” he said.

“I think this is something that we need to understand, and not think of the athletes as being strong-willed or selfish.”

Yamashita lamented the fact that virus restrictions and a ban on overseas fans coming to Japan means the Tokyo Games will not be the cultural exchange he was looking forward to.

But he still thinks the event can leave a meaningful legacy.

“There was a feeling that the Olympics were becoming huge and extravagant,” he said.

“I believe we’ve been given an opportunity to rethink what the Olympics are about. I think that’s where the Tokyo Games can be significant.”

 

AFP

Former Japan Justice Minister Jailed For Vote-Buying

Japanese Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai.

 

 

A former Japanese justice minister received a three-year jail term on Friday for vote-buying in an attempt to get his wife elected to a national office, local media said.

Katsuyuki Kawai, 58, was found guilty of charges that he distributed 29 million yen ($260,000 at today’s rates) to about 100 people in 2019, to help secure an upper house seat for his wife Anri, national broadcaster NHK said.

He was fined 1.3 million yen ($11,800) in addition to the jail term, local media added.

Officials at the Tokyo District Court could not immediately confirm the reports.

Katsuyuki, a close confidant of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, had reversed his earlier claims of innocence and broadly conceded the allegations against him.

Anri, who won her seat in the July 2019 election, has already been found guilty over her role in the scheme and received a suspended sentence of 16 months earlier this year.

Katsuyuki’s sentence is not suspended, meaning he faces jail time. But the Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported that he appealed.

He was named justice minister by Abe in 2019 but left the office after only a few weeks as the scandal emerged.

The headquarters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reportedly provided 150 million yen to Anri’s election campaign, an unusually large sum to boost campaign efforts.

Japan To Set 10,000-Spectator Cap Ahead Of Olympics

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Japan is planning to set a cap of 10,000 fans at sports events ahead of the Olympics, a cabinet minister said Wednesday, as organisers weigh how many domestic spectators can attend the Games.

The proposed measure would come into force after a Covid-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of the country ends on June 20, and would last until the end of August, said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of virus measures.

It would limit spectators to 50 percent of a venue’s capacity or 10,000 people, whichever is smaller, he said. The plan is expected to become official later this week.

“It is important that we maintain thorough anti-infection measures to prevent a rebound in cases, especially as we foresee a spread of the Delta variant,” Nishimura told a government advisory panel, which endorsed the plan.

The move could set the boundaries for a decision by Olympic organisers on how many domestic fans — if any — can attend Games events when Tokyo 2020 kicks off on July 23. Overseas spectators have already been banned.

Japan has seen a comparatively small virus outbreak, with slightly more than 14,000 deaths despite avoiding harsh lockdowns.

But its vaccination programme has moved slower than many other developed nations, with just over five percent of the population fully inoculated so far.

The decision on Olympic spectators is expected only after the virus emergency in Tokyo ends on June 20 and the government confirms what restrictions will replace it.

Recent reports have said “quasi-emergency” measures could be introduced, including curbs on the sale of alcohol or limited opening hours for bars and restaurants.

Experts and officials have expressed concerns that huge crowds attending the virus-postponed Games could accelerate the spread of Covid-19 after the emergency measures end.

Takaji Wakita, head of the advisory panel, warned of possible surges of infection in the near future as people start to go out more in some regions, including Tokyo.

“When the government lifts the state of emergency, it’s important that restrictions are lifted gradually,” he told reporters on Wednesday after the panel met.

Under the current state of emergency, spectators are capped at 5,000 people or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller.

AFP